What did you learn from your last tradeshow appearance? Did you learn that you, well, perhaps shouldn’t have even been there?
Sometimes that’s the best lesson you can learn: that the money you spent on the show was wasted and you won’t do that show again.
Or will you? Maybe the lessons you learned included the fact that this particular show was wasted, but that you learned enough about the show to make adjustments and refocus for the next go-round.
Let’s face it: even the most expensive marketing mistake comes with a lesson. Sometimes it’s hard to find, and other times it’s staring you in the face.
It could be that you learned that the show’s audience is not for you.
I recently teamed up with the Salem Business Network and Communication Steroids for the Salem Chamber of Commerce’s ShowBiz 2010, a business-focused day-long tradeshow. We prepped and planned, created and executed. And when it was over, we evaluated the results.
First, we couldn’t point to more than a handful of actual leads for Communication Steroids. And we had about 20 sign-ups for the Salem Business Network. As it turns out, signing people up via our laptop in a busy, chaotic show was more time-consuming than anticipated. So even had everything gone according to plan, the sign-ups would have been fewer than desired.
But luring people to sign up for something FREE isn’t always easy. You’d think so, but it’s counter-intuitive. When people hear that something is FREE, they often thing there’s a hidden catch or that the service is not worth much anyway. After all, they must reason, if it’s free what value can it have?
We also didn’t quite understand the audience that showed up to the show: instead of business folks, it was mostly (probably 90%) people ‘trick-or-treating’ to grab free samples and handouts at a lot of the booths. To their credit, the Salem Chamber of Commerce has tried to dampen that portion of the crowd by charging $5 entrance fee – but it still didn’t seem to have much effect. So there were few people at the show that we could actually describe as serious prospects.
Given all that, it’s hard to know how things will unfold over the next year. We did have a handful of folks we met who liked the offerings, and if any of them develop into a good client in the next 12 months we can say the minimal investment in booth space rental and graphics was worth it. But we can’t say it yet.
Every opportunity to get out into the marketplace is a chance to learn; to understand your market better, to research the wants and needs of your market, to understand the show better, to see how your people work in a chaotic sales situation.
Given that tradeshow marketing is not cheap, your best approach is to learn as many lessons as you can on as many different fronts as you can.
Doors are open: Class is in session!